The challenges facing front-desk operations are ever-evolving, and technology is evolving to meet them. According to Nils Stolzlechner, GM of the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront, the most enduring hurdle facing the front desk is increasing the speed of guest check-ins.
"If we have international travelers arriving at 8 a.m. and check in is at 4 p.m., the guest doesn't care. They just want a room," Stolzlechner said. "Those challenges, keeping the front desk engaged and real and dealing with frustrations as they arrive are what hotels are most concerned with."
In addition, hotels are currently working to become more personal. In his ideal scenario, Stolzlechner said he would walk every guest to the elevator at check-in and to the front door at check-out, something that can only be done in hotels with open desk configurations.
"I love the idea of pods," he said. "You don’t want a barrier between you and the guest, like what you find in older hotels. Aesthetically, that's where we want the focus."
.@motel6 CEO: not just interacting across the front desk, but walk around hotel and ask people how their stay is. How can we get better?— David Eisen (@DavidEisen3) March 31, 2016
This shift is also taking place in Hyatt properties. Corinna Wenks, director of rooms at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, said that hotels are getting more creative with their front desks, working on a case-by-case basis to provide a customized approach whenever possible. This fits with hospitality's growing theme of bespoke experiences, and is also reflected in staff training.
"Our overall training now is based on systems training and engaging with our guests," Wenks said.
This break from tradition, moving away from grand desks spanning the length of the lobby wall, is creating what the Grand Hyatt San Francisco's director of sales, Anita Rahman, calls a "more friendly experience," but requires a different sort of training than what front-desk employees may have grown accustomed to.
"We need associates that are tech savvy and can multitask," Rahman said. "It's a delicate balance. We have multiple systems and service training to ensure our guests have a positive experience. We integrate both equally to make it work to our advantage.”
At the same time, hotels are paradoxically fighting complexity. Jimmy Santostefano, senior director front office, Hilton Worldwide, said that it is the front-desk's job to ensure every guest receives the same level of service, meaning the process needs to be uniform on all levels. "We want the experience to be as easy as possible and flawless every time," Santostefano said. "It can't be overly complicated for team members or guests."